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Woman admitted to Toronto ICU for more than 300 days cleared to go home

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After 340 days on a ventilator in intensive care at Humber River Hospital, 27-year-old Toronto resident Nicole Pampena was finally discharged Wednesday.

She was wheeled out of the hospital to the sounds of her favourite singer, Drake, and cheers from hospital staff.

“I’m not much of a bible thumper,” her father, Joseph Pampena, told CTV News Toronto. “But she really is a miracle."

He says when Nicole was initially admitted on Aug. 20 last year, after suffering bleeding and undergoing surgery, he was told she probably wouldn’t make it.

“However, I’ve been told that since she was born,” he says.

Nicole was born premature and has cerebral dysgenesis, a rare condition affecting brain development in infancy. She's unable to stand or swallow and needs constant nursing care.

While she was in ICU, she needed a tracheostomy. With her dedicated nursing support and her own determination, she was able to slowly improve.

Registered social worker Olivia Coughlin, who’s been with Nicole since she was admitted, says it’s extremely unusual for someone in ICU for so long to be allowed to go directly home.

“Typically patients who are on ventilators have to go to a secondary program before they're able to go directly home," Coughlin said. “So this is definitely a first for us, sending home directly from our ICU. It’s a very unique case.”

The key was having Nicole’s private nursing team get special training from Humber River Hospital and West Park Health, so they would be equipped to use her ventilator and related equipment.

The family has set up a GoFundMe in an effort to crowdsource funds needed to "offset some of the nursing expenses."

Joseph, who is blind, is Nicole’s main caregiver. Her mother died of liver cancer several years ago.

Joseph communicates with Nicole by placing his hand on her head, and Nicole, who is non-verbal, indicates her responses by nodding or shaking her head.

Nicole is only home for a day pass right now, but if everything goes smoothly, she should be able to go home permanently next week.

And that, Coughlin says, was her mother’s dying wish -- to have Nicole be safe and happy at home.

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